Explaining My Reasoning

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SWBAT explain the design of their model playground.

Big Idea

Provide students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of their own solution by allowing them to explain themselves in writing.

Lesson Overview

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

This is the final lesson in a unit to help students design a solution to a problem that people want to change. The students are going to deepen their understanding as they explain the way their playground design is going to allow children to get outside more and play. Explaining their solution can help students reflect upon their knowledge they have gained in this unit.

A lot has happened to bring the students to the point where they can express themselves in writing. I began teaching writing in August using the POW TIDE Strategy. In this unit the students have engaged in research, observations, surveys, and designing. They have evaluated each others designs and given their peers feedback. The students have even listed the pros and cons connected to each design.

Lesson Overview

There are two big strategies I use in every lesson I teach. I use peanut butter jelly partners and transitions. They are really helpful in my classroom management. I find that students need to be able to work with their friends, and they need to move around frequently. 

My transitions begin in the lounge or carpet area where I just begin the lesson. Then we move to the center of the room for the explore, explain, and elaborate section. The desks are in groups of four to support group work. Then we close the lesson back in the lounge.

The other strategy I use is peanut butter jelly partners or heterogeneous ability group partners. The students have assigned seats next to each other throughout the lesson. They work together to help each other read, write, or generate ideas.



10 minutes

In the beginning of the lesson I try to excite the class and engage them in the lesson. I typically project the lesson image on the Smart Board to excite the class. Then I ask the students a question to get them thinking about the lesson topic, and I tell the students the plan for the lesson.

I say, "Tell your partner how you think we should solve the problem that you need a place to play outdoors near your home." I listen and hope the hear, "I am designing a playground in all of the major housing locations." 

Now, the students have verbalized their solution I say, "Today you are going to explain your playground design in writing." Basically I am explaining what we are going to do in the lesson, because it helps my students meet my expectations. By telling them how we are going to display the work I am putting importance on how much effort they need to put into the work. My students know the work they put in the hall must be their best.


15 minutes

The students fill in a graphic organizer to help them prepare to write a paragraph explaining their design. First, I show an example (TIDE graphic organizer model), and then I walk around and observe students working. By giving the students a model it helps them understand what they are expected to create.

So, I say, "First you need to copy down the graphic organizer (student work). Then you can add your topic sentence which needs to be about your playground design. Next, you need to add at least three details explaining your design. Your fourth sentence needs to close the paragraph. Remember this is just for you to organize your thoughts. You can write in phrases or just make notes." I often tell the class to write in robot or caveman talk. This is a way to help organize their thoughts, and develop ideas. So, when writing I first focus on generating ideas and expressing the correct content. Then we organize the content into complete sentences.

I walk around and prepare to help students working. For those who seem stuck, I say, "Look at the three topic sentence I created and create something similar." To help them get their first detail I say, "What is the equipment on your playground?" Then I ask, "What is your surface?" to get the second detail. The third detail is about their location. So, I ask, "Where are you going to put the playground?"  To assist the students in creating an ending I ask, "How can you wrap this up?" Here is an example of my student work.


10 minutes

Now, the students read their graphic organizer to their partner. They discuss any changes and give their partner suggestions. This is where we are going to catch anything that is off topic or really does not need to be in the paragraph. The students are also going to help their peers make sure they have included all parts to the paragraph.

I say, "Read your graphic organizer to your partner. Partners be prepared to make sure your peers have a topic sentence, three details, and a closing that connects to their model playground." Then I walk around and listen to the students talking. If I see one group is not talking I just prompt them with, "Share your graphic organizer." Sometimes I ask if they need help. This is a place where I want the students to reach out for help from their peers, but also ask me for any help.


15 minutes

Now, the students write their paragraph on lined paper. I prefer to use the standard loose notebook paper, so we can display the work in the hallway. The students have worked very hard in this unit, and I think we need to share what we have done. When I take it down in about a week I am going to put it in a portfolio I give the students at the end of the year. It is a collection of their best work. Usually it consists of anything I have had hanging in the hallway,

I walk around as the students are working and give them feedback. I point out grammar errors, punctuation, and other details like indenting. Usually, I just say things like, "Oh, don't forget your punctuation here, or remember to indent." If I see really messing handwriting I say, "Remember others will want to read this in the hallway, so write neat enough that other people can read your handwriting." This focuses the purpose of writing neat toward communicating with others, so it creates a purpose for being neat.


10 minutes

As the lesson ends I allow the students to exchange paragraphs. They use the writing rubric to evaluate their work (proficient Student Workbelow basic student work),  then evaluate their peers' paragraph, and I evaluate the paragraph as well. I evaluate the work after school, and I give them written feedback as well.

So, I first explain the rubric. I say, "The rubric has three sections. The first section is for you to evaluate yourself. Circle the 1 if you have met the criteria on the right, and check the 0 if you did not meet the criteria. Then add up your points and write them in the score section. Once you have evaluated your work go ahead and trade papers with your partner. Evaluate their work and give them any explanation you feel necessary. Once you get your paper back you can make any revisions you want."

Last, I close the lesson I recapping what we have done. I say, "Today you have written a paragraph explaining your solution to a problem in your community. I will evaluate the paragraphs, return them, and allow you to make revisions before I hang them in the hall."